The Exceptions

Posted Jul 06, 2011 by 6 Comments

The crumpled up paper lay untouched on the desk. She read the words on it over and over. And she’d never felt so helpless.

Brenda dealt with devastating diseases, screaming infants and culture shock as a nurse at Beacon of Hope in rural Kenya. She even worked hard to learn Swahili after her shifts and worked though homesickness while living away from her family for nearly a year.

But on that piece of paper, she met her biggest challenge.

A simple thing

Earlier in the day, Brenda had a routine check-up appointment for a woman and her one-year-old son. After treating the mother, Brenda held and played with the little boy while his mother went to get the medicine she needed. It was such a simple thing, playing with a baby, that Brenda didn’t think anything of it.

But the mother watched carefully as Brenda played with her son.

Brenda finds joy in the work at Beacon of Hope

When they’d come in Brenda had noticed the exhaustion in the mother’s eyes, the dirt on the baby’s feet and hands. Brenda could tell that like so many people that came into Beacon’s clinic, they needed more than just medical attention. They needed encouragement and love. They needed hope.

But she had no idea how deep their need really was.

Later, when the crumpled note appeared on the counter for Brenda, she’d been stunned by its contents. In scrawled letters was written a simple question.

“Will you keep my baby?”

Instantly, Brenda knew it was from the mother whose son she’d been holding.

Brenda immediately went to find them. When she did, the woman told her stories of suffering from severe, crippling depression. She pleaded with Brenda to help. She could no longer take care of her son. He was a burden in her already difficult life and in Brenda, she saw a way out.

The woman saw no reason why she shouldn’t give her son to a stranger.

Brenda knew she couldn’t keep the child, as much as she wanted to. As a single woman working as a nurse and living in a foreign country, adding the responsibility of a child was impossible.

But that didn’t take away the pain in her heart as she looked at the child’s face and saw the pain in his mother’s eyes.

As a mother, pain and stress can be overwhelming.

Pain Brenda knew she couldn’t take away.

Brenda and the woman discussed other options for taking care of the little boy, including a children’s home down the road. The woman listened carefully and thanked Brenda for her help. But Brenda knew she was unconvinced.

The following day, the woman returned and waited for Brenda’s shift to end so she could ask the same question. She came back the next day and the next, for a week and a half. Every day, Brenda and the woman had the same conversation. The woman had the same request and Brenda had the same answer: “I can’t.”

Eventually, the two stopped coming.

Brenda doesn’t know what happened to the woman and her son. She prays they both found the help they needed, but she hasn’t seen them since.

But for the rest of her time at Beacon of Hope, for the rest of her career as a nurse, Brenda will remember the ones she couldn’t help. The two who needed her desperately, but that she couldn’t free from their pain.

And no matter how many people she helps, she’ll remember them as the exceptions.

Making the difference

At Beacon of Hope, I’ve met women with stories just like the woman Brenda met.

In a community full of needs, where can a woman go when she can’t take care of her child?

They come from lives that were broken, filled with depression, disease and poverty. When I hear their stories and the problems they face, I cringe.

But after being involved with Beacon of Hope, their lives are different. They have the skills to start their own businesses, the financial stability to feed their families and enough confidence in themselves to think about problems with new mindsets.

The women I’ve seen live differently. While before they might have given up, now they live with hope.

They have jobs and their children are growing and strong. At night, they have food to put on the table, and in the morning, their children have clean uniforms to wear to school.

Like the woman Brenda met, they still face devastating challenges each day. Life hasn’t gotten easier because they’ve been involved with Beacon of Hope.

But instead of surrendering, they’re fighting for their families. They’re taking on the problems of depression, disease and poverty and putting them up against new skills and community support. As these courageous mothers get stronger, they give support to their neighbors and as those neighbors get stronger, they build up the community.

With Beacon of Hope’s help, Rongai’s mothers have a way to support their families ... and something to smile about.

So that the next time some one has a need, there’s no chance they’ll become exceptions. There won’t be anyone who can’t get the help the need.

Brenda still gets emotional when she talks about the woman and her little boy. The encounter happened months ago, but the story hurts just as much as it did the first time the woman asked for Brenda’s help.

But life goes on in Beacon of Hope’s clinic. Each day there are more problems, more sad stories. But in the smiles of every child Brenda meets, she sees the joy that little boy lacked. Each time a new mother squeezes her baby tight, Brenda finds the love that mother couldn’t find.

And for Brenda, overwhelming stories of hope outweigh the pain from the two exceptions.

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Next Steps
    • While Beacon of Hope is meeting needs, many women and children in Rongai are still at risk. Pray for their safety and strength as their lives continue to be difficult.
    • Often those in need are closer than we think. Look around you to see who may be struggling but not asking for help. Take a moment to encourage them, and if you can, help them get back on their feet.
    • Mothers in crisis need help in many stages of life. Check out ways you can get involved with needy women in your community like The Crisis Pregnancy Center or Safe Families for Children.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Molly Meyer was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2011. She currently attends Indiana Wesleyan University where she’s studying Journalism and International Relations. She loves discovering how God can work his grace through every story, no matter the circumstances.

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  1. Kristen said... 


    July 6th, 2011 at 9:57 am  

    I just love the expression on that little baby’s face in the last pictures. Fantastic photos and an incredibly touching story. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

  2. Rob Yonan said... 


    July 6th, 2011 at 10:25 am  

    I cannot imagine the depth of despair that brings a parent to the place of such a deep, painful request. It is stories like these that I must continue to read and hear and feel. Otherwise, I grow cold, hard and selfish.
    Thanks to you and Beacon of Hope for bringing life to these parents and their children…one at a time.

  3. Luke said... 


    July 6th, 2011 at 2:43 pm  

    This story was well told. I’m not surprised, but very saddened by that woman who wanted to give her child away. It’s like she wanted Her son to be taken care of but didn’t feel like she could do it anymore.

  4. Gary Paultre said... 


    July 6th, 2011 at 5:50 pm  

    Man. I can’t imagine things being so very bad that I would give my child away. It just floors me. I hope and pray for that mother and child. Thanks to all who give their lives to help. God has a reward waiting for you. Thanks for telling this story Molly :)

  5. Jane VanOsdol said... 


    July 11th, 2011 at 2:21 pm  

    Molly, the scripture that popped into my mind for this woman and her baby that Brenda met is “Blessed are the poor is spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” from Matthew 5:3.

    Sometimes there are just no easy answers. Brenda is wise to know that she can’t personally be the answer for every person she meets. God is the only one powerful enough to be that. Sometimes the hardest thing is having to say “no” so that you can continue doing the work God has given you to do and trust that He will provide the answer in His way and time.

    Thank you for sharing this story.

  6. Julie Buczkowski said... 


    July 12th, 2011 at 8:36 pm  

    Wow, Molly. This, I’m sure, was not an easy story for you to tell. Nor was it an easy one for Brenda to share. But for the mother who wrote that note it would have been toughest of all.

    Thanks for sharing it anyway.

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